Inside TDV - The Data Vault Blog

PHR and Reluctant Consumers

Google’s PHR (personal health record) product, Google Health, will cease operations on January 1, 2012. The official Google Blog offers an explanation for the company’s decision to retire their Google Health product: Google’s goal to translate their “successful consumer-centered approach” to the healthcare domain did not have the hoped for impact on a sufficient number of Google users.

Google Health joins other major PHR projects that eventually fizzled. The well-publicized Medco/ Revolution Health PHR portal was short-lived from 2008 – 2010. The demise of consumer-driven health projects demonstrates not only the difficult transition to more patient-directed healthcare but also a growing distrust among all consumers in the security of electronic data.

A reported 80% of Americans are concerned about moving medical information to an EHR (electronic health record), according to the 2011 SailPoint Market Pulse Survey titled “The Data Breach Battle.” The term EHR generally refers to the data contained in traditional patient charts and managed in an electronic format by clinicians in private practices, hospitals or other health care networks. Unlike many patient-managed PHRs, most EHRs are subject to HIPAA requirements, which increased under the HITECH Act.

While covered entities and their business associates are responsible for compliance with HIPAA privacy and security rules, only PHR services
offered by HIPAA covered entities, such as health care providers or health plans, are subject to the same rules. PHRs exist in a variety of software and storage systems, but one thing remains the same in any format: The PHR allows individuals to manage personal health information and control its access. This places significant responsibility on the consumer to vet their PHR vendor, including review of privacy policies and security safeguards.

Expanded consumer responsibility coupled with existing fears about identity theft and exposure of personal health information may keep customers from embracing their PHR options. Likewise, consumer-protection agencies such as the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse continue to recommend maintenance of “offline medical records” for people interested in compiling their own complete medical history.

Did you know?

Other PHR vendors will have a chance to host existing Google Health data for current users. Users will be able to download existing data from Google Health until January 1, 2013. The ASTM Continuity of Care Record (CCR) XML data set allows easy import to other personal health tools, including Microsoft HealthVault.

Written by: AGriffin


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